(Perpetual Harmonically Integrated Synergetically Collaborative Infrastructure)
This is how I envision the ideal way for people to live together in sustainable harmony with each other and our environment.
IntroductionBefore I discovered the Power Flower Geometry in 2004 I had already been building large geometrical structures from bamboo since 1998 for all kinds of artistic events and expositions using the relatively well-known Sacred Geometry based on the five Platonic Solids that Pythagoras discovered over 2000 years ago at the very start of the age of Pisces.
Belthane spring-celebration at the farm, when we built it together with many visitors as a first test, then we built it once more in the center of Amsterdam on “Autovrije Zondag” (Car-free Sunday) on the 20th of September, and after that I introduced it internationally on the Life Form conference in Cardiff, Wales on 3 and 4 October 2009 organized by the Bioarchitecture Foundation, where on the second day we also built it together with all participants in around 20 minutes! Click here to read an excellent explanation about bioarchitecture by Dan Winter, who was also a speaker on that conference.
Then it still took me one full month of battling the corrupt customs at the harbor of Mombasa to liberate my goods for a reasonable price, and after having finally succeeded at that with the help of the police and a witness, I transported them to Naro Moru in an empty potatoes-truck that broke down dozens of times along the way, so that ‘safari’ took us an other full week, after which I wanted to get started setting up our self-sustainable project as soon as possible before my last money was also spent, but soon after I arrived I found out this ‘friend’ was merely planning to (ab)use me and our project to con foreign investors into donations for orphans he never had any true intentions of helping, and then I also found out he neither had any contract for the 11 acres around the super luxurious house he lived in, for which getting the extremely high rent paid was his first priority, because he was completely penniless and suddenly expected me to financially take care of him and all the costs of setting up this project on his landlady’s compound, who would surely demand an exorbitant amount for a contract after I would have invested my last money into manifesting that orphanage, because she also demanded an exorbitant amount for his house. He even expected me to pay for all his groceries and transportation costs etc., and while instead of doing it all together as we had agreed upon he now declared himself the director of “our” new NGO and me his unpaid, but instead paying volunteer, who wasn’t even welcome to sleep in that big empty expensive house anymore once his girlfriend joined us because he now wanted more privacy, so I then quickly left him and moved to a small house (12 times cheaper than his!) and eversince I’ve been trying to do what I can to further this project by myself on the 3 different locations I’ve moved to by now (my current house is even 24 times cheaper!), where I mostly farmed for sustenance and to learn about organic farming in my new environment (I also grew an acre of wheat for two seasons), but mainly thanks to local friends who gave me food when they knew I was out again as well as donations by various international friends on facebook, I have been able to survive here this long (so far I haven’t met any Kenyans yet who manage to make ends meet on my budget), because finding work is often very hard here, especially for foreigners, as a work permit costs triple a year from what I would earn as a fulltime teacher(!), so I can only very occasionally find unqualified low paid physically demanding jobs with long hours (upto 12 hours a day, earning around 400 Ksh/4 Euro/Dollars a day) in farming (like plowing or digging trenches by hand) or construction work (usually carrying big stones, sometimes carpentry, and last month I finally found a steady job at a metal workshop, but that job is finished now), but I stay because I see huge opportunities and a great need for my project everywhere I look, so I’ve searched long and hard for preferably local, trustworthy partners to cooperate with, because I believe that is the best way to share this knowledge with the local community (my conclusion after I considered joining a series of other NGOs with proclaimed humanitarian and/or environmental goals that on closer inspection all appeared to be equally self-serving and/or ineffective to me), but unfortunately despite my relentless and full dedication I have not yet succeeded at finding any Kenyan partners who have the minimal money and land to invest into setting up this project together with me who understand how not only they will profit from this collaboration, but also their children for many generations to come, because it’s hard to explain the many complex aspects involved and their inter-related advantages without any living proof, so that’s why I’m now updating my blog with a long overdue detailed description of my project, hoping that in this manner I can reach and convince also less local potential partners to help me set up this self-sustainability-promoting-permacultural-pilot-project here in Naro Moru, Kenya, or anywhere else it could be of benefit (I have now adapted the design to a dry and hot climate, but the same principles this geometry represents can be applied anywhere), or maybe someone reading this knows any fundraisers or organizations who might be willing to sponsor setting up the first pilot-project, because I did find many local farmers who would love to have this project on their ‘shamba’ but cannot afford the necessary financial investment, while generally the rich large landowners I’ve contacted aren’t interested in small scale innovative (self)sustainable solutions for “their” workers, because they rather maintain the non-sustainable (according to this UN report) “status quo” that enriched them, but after the first pilot-project has proven it’s worth I know many very interested middleclass landowners that often live and work far away in big towns like Nairobi and leave the shamba they inherited poorly attended, or even completely unattended, who with some effort could afford the minimal initial investment (around 5000 Euro for materials, specified later), or even several poorer farmers can join their savings together when they know for sure this system works more efficiently and sustainably, or I could base a new crowd funding campaign on this presentation, so here’s my best shot at passing that speed-bump delaying my/our progress:
Why it worksPower Flower PHI-SCI works so much more efficiently because all the different elements involved synergetically work together in a harmonically integrated whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, because they all help each other thrive in a perpetually recycling closed nutrient cycle, while constantly receiving extra nutrients and energy through Nature’s basic elements of Sun, Air, Earth and Water, thereby constantly upgrading, instead of non-sustainably depleting and poisoning itself and our environment, while it makes you and your family and/or participating friends independent of the ever inflating and therefore eventually collapsing financial system.
The basic design that I showed in the first picture has not changed much, I only further perfected the details of the “aquaponics” system (explained later), and I further developed the Power Flower Greenhouse, for which I set up a partially successful crowdfunding campaign in 2012 after my parents’ money was finished, to gather the money I needed for the building materials, that by making use of the Power Flower’s more efficient new geometry can be built for half the price of the cheapest greenhouses available, because of the more harmonic distribution (Flow) of tension (Power) within the Phi-spiraled structure of it’s interwoven framework, which can therefore be made from cheaper, but equally durable plastic tubes (HDPP) instead of from galvanized steel, so I thought that by using this geometry for a cheaper greenhouse would be the best adapted small-scale application for Africa to prove it’s practical advantages, as a stepping stone to convince people of the advantages of the entire project, but although I can build that greenhouse now, I haven’t found the right place to do that yet, and to make use of it in the most effective manner I would need more money for materials. Pictured below is a model of that greenhouse woven from PVC tubes and you can still see a youtube video for my crowdfunding presentation here:
Around the periphery of the circularly shaped project I will then grow various bamboo-varieties to fill up the usually square shape of the land, because the fast (re)growing bamboo produces six times more firewood than the trees that are usually burned for cooking here, so bamboo is a marvelous (self)sustainable solution for the serious deforestation problems that Kenya, Africa and our entire world faces (China already has a billion Dollar a year bamboo-charcoal-briquettes-industry for many years). Here’s a manual bamboo-charcoal-briquette-press that is sold for around 100 Euro (a bit of clay-mud is added to make them stick together, but you can also just burn the bamboo directly).
But apart from burning it, bamboo is also an excellent building material with which I have lots of experience that I can share, and there’s a fast growing very profitable local market for it. Besides these refinements also many plants have now been replaced by indigenous varieties, because they grow better here and don’t need any chemical herbicides, fungicides, insecticides (or the occasional homicides they cause unwontedly), but the three basic food groups that produce all the carbohydrates, vitamins and proteins we need to be healthy are still represented, so this small-scale polycultural farming system sustainably produces relatively more food, firewood and building materials than any large-scale monocultural system ever could, while needing less water, less land, and no artificial chemicals once the slightly larger initial investment is made to establish this self-sustainable eco-village, which depending on the size (1 to 5 acres) can harbor and sustain either 5 individuals or 5 families and their offspring, while there will still be a large excess of food and bamboo that can be sold (or bartered) to provide for additional goods or services, but as a means to generate extra income and publicity one or several of the 5 houses could also serve to welcome eco-tourists and/or for an eco-restaurant for which I would love to do the cooking as that’s one of my favorite hobbies while making use of the extremely efficient combination of stove, oven, smoker and water-heater that I designed based on the principles of a socalled “rocket-stove” as shown below.
How it worksThis Sacred Hoop of 1ife now starts it’s first loop with Moringa oleifera, an indigenous tree also known as the Tree of Life or the Miracle Tree, because it contains more nutrients than any other plant on our planet, it cures and/or prevents over 300 diseases, it’s seeds can purify heavily contaminated water, and it offers all this while it thrives in poor dry soil because of it’s deep tap-root, so its a miraculous tree indeed! In dried powdered form it is exported to western countries as the latest “superfood” discovery in healthfood circles, but I haven’t seen any of these trees here locally yet, as it’s many traditional uses have generally been abandoned in favor of exotic (western) vegetables and pharmaceuticals by all the locals I’ve met here in the past 4 years, while according to the internet in other African regions and in India, where it also grows indigenously, its various uses are still enthusiastically practiced by many locals. Its (unripe) seedpods can be cooked like peas, its young leaves are a tasty vegetable that can be cooked like spinach or even be eaten raw in salads, and even it’s flowers, roots and fruits can be eaten, but besides for people it is also a perfect addition to the menu of the livestock involved in the project, chicken and tilapia in this case, for whom not only the extremely high concentrations and many varieties of vitamins and minerals it contains keep them healthy and strong, but also it’s extremely high amount of proteins will help them grow fast and lay big eggs. They would then only need maize to complete their diet, which you can also easily grow yourself here.
Those chickens are then kept in 10 long chickencoops that are positioned right above the star-shaped tilapia channels around the greenhouse at the center of the PHI-SCI structure; with the space between the five star-points those coops form together as their private free-range chicken-run to hunt for worms, bugs, grubs, seeds and weeds, where I will also collect my organic waste from the garden and kitchen on compost piles, which they will then shred, turn and aerate for me while they scratch and dig in their search for their favorite snacks, so all you need to do is collect the composted material when the need arises and return it to the garden.
Flood and drain growbedsInside the greenhouse at the perpetually pumping heart of my design will be five cascading Phi-spirals of alternately flooding and draining growbeds, housed in 30 gradually smaller containers that instead of soil are filled with small rocks or pebbles (mixed with limestones or seashells that help neutralize the acidity in the water), which can be made from wood lined with plastic (dam-liner) or from concrete to make them more durable. This additional life support system functions by letting the outer circle of 5 largest growbeds at ground level constantly be refilled with fertile water from the surrounding tilapia channels by socalled ‘solid lift overflow’ tubes, which start at the bottom of those channels where they suck up all the decomposing and oxygen consuming organic matter that gathers there, so whenever those channels are filled beyond a predetermined level by the constantly active waterpump or by rainfall, they spill their overflow from the bottom of those channels to the first outer circle of five biggest growbed-containers inside the greenhouse, which then slowly fill up until a predetermined flood-level is reached, when automatically a socalled ‘bell siphon’ is activated that quickly drains those five growbeds into the next circle of five smaller growbed-containers, that simply drain their water directly from their bottom with a regular (but slightly narrower) siphon into the next smaller circle of five smaller growbed-containers under them, and this keeps happening until the smallest circle of five growbed-containers drain into the central pentagonal ‘sump’ at the lowest point (that simultaneously can serve as a water-container to bridge periods of water-shortage and/or irrigate the plants outside in the soil), from where it is pumped back up and passed through “growtowers” (explained later), that perpetually drain this now highly purified and oxygenated water back into the pentagonal tilapia channels surrounding the greenhouse, because now that water has been filtered of all large particles by all the small rocks and vegetable-roots inside the flood and drain growbeds and growtowers, where automatically worms come to live inbetween those rocks (vermiculture), who digest those particles and turn them into extremely fertile manure for the plants (while any surplus can be fed to the tilapia and chickens), and by alternately flooding and draining those rocks we have also created the perfect growth conditions for the specific bacteria that first convert the ammonia from the manure that is poisonous for the fish into nitrites, and those nitrites then form the food source for other bacteria living on those rocks that convert these nitrites into nitrates that are harmless for the fish and fertilize the algae and vegetables, so automatically these bacteria will now cover the surface of those rocks as their home-base and from there spread out through all the tilapia channels. The smallest circle(s) of growbeds can then harbor nurseries for the seedlings while the bigger circles harbor a selection of (tall) plants that need a strongly developed root-system (like kale), who apart from receiving all the oxygen and nutrients they need will appreciate the stabilizing grip offered by the alternately flooding and draining layer of rocks in their growbeds, and/or plants needing the greenhouse’s protection from birds (like sunflowers, cherries, berries, etc.), but any plant will thrive using this method.
Floating raftsThe tilapia channels outside the greenhouse can now serve to grow (low) vegetables that don’t need a strongly developed root-system (like green herbs, lettuce, spinach etc.) by growing them in rafts floating on top of those channels, with their roots hanging directly in the water beneath them. These rafts can be made from Styrofoam with holes in them filled with coconut-fibers to offer a minimal grip for the roots, but I would prefer to make them (self)sustainably from bamboo. Apart from offering an extremely efficient way to organically grow loads of vegetables very fast in these floating rafts, they also protect the tilapia from birds eating them by covering the water surface, while thereby also reducing the evaporation of water from the tilapia channels, and fourthly these rafts will now also serve to shade the tilapia channels to keep the algae growth under control, so the number of rafts needs to be balanced out with how much algae the tilapia are able to eat, but I will also grow protein-rich (upto 50%!) duckweed that directly floats on top of the tilapia channels without any rafts, which the tilapia and the chickens both love to eat, and which will also help in protecting the fish and reduce the algae growth and evaporation (shade-netting is also used for this but is much more expensive and doesn’t offer the additional benefits). Normally when you grow plants in earth you can drown and kill them if you give them too much water, but they then actually die because they can’t breathe in any oxygen, so as long as you keep the water well oxygenated their roots can absorb all the oxygen they need from that water, and then your plants will grow even faster than in soil. The flood and drain system described above also adds lots of oxygen to the water when the growbeds are drained, because then all those wet rocks hugely increase the water’s surface area that is exposed to the air from which it then absorbs lots of oxygen, but because that will only provide oxygen to the channels in the central pentagonal area around the greenhouse, we will need to have an airpump constantly pumping air through (weighted down) air-hoses with tiny aeration-holes in them, that lie at the bottom of the other channels surrounding that central pentagonal area, so the ammonia-to-nitrate-converting-bacteria, the algae, the vegetables, the tilapia, and the catfish are all provided with all the oxygen and nutrients they need to thrive together in a self-sustaining harmonic balance.
GrowtowersThe 3rd aquaponics method I apply is by having socalled growtowers inside the greenhouse, that optimize the space in the upper areas. These are vertically positioned tubes filled with small rocks that almost reach to the ceiling of the greenhouse, where the water from the central sump of the flood and drain growbeds is continually pumped up into the top ends of these tubes, while their bottom ends are nearly touching the water surface of the central pentagonal tilapia channels, in which they perpetually drain their highly purified water. Along the sides of those tubes are then again holes filled with coconut-fibers in which the plants grow, from where they extend their roots inbetween the rocks inside the tubes. Climbing plants would be most adapted for this method (like tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, cucumbers, squash, eggplants, zucchini/courgettes, strawberries, melons, passionfruits etc.), but as you can see in this picture anything grows quite well in them.
Because these 3 aquaponics methods have closed nutrient cycles and closed water cycles, they make most efficient use of the available resources, especially when the water can’t evaporate within the greenhouse or under the floating rafts, and because the plants and fish are provided with everything they need whenever they need it, you can grow faster and more plants and fish on a smaller space, up to 3 times more plants, twice as fast, while needing only 1-5% of the water used in conventional agriculture according to research, while the stocking density of tilapia can be increased tenfold or even higher when the optimal water quality is maintained.
But apart from these pure aquaponics methods I will also let the water flood outside of this closed re-circulating system, by simultaneously utilizing the tilapia channels as irrigation channels that harmonically distribute their fertile water within the entire compound. This is achieved by also letting many of their aforementioned “solid lift overflow” tubes drain the water from the mucky bottom of the tilapia channels into shallow irrigation trenches that run between the trees and plants that grow outside in the soil (like sweet potatoes which also offer a layer of socalled “living mulch” between the fruit and nut trees that retains water in the soil and represses weed growth while it’s leaves are a favored food for the tilapia, the chickens and also nice to eat for people, cassava, maize, unions, garlic, Moringa oleifera, bamboo, and all sorts of fruit and nut trees like macadamia, cashew, avocado, mango, papaya, apple, orange etc.), but this irrigation system only works automatically when the water-level inside the tilapia channels is slightly raised above ground level, so aided by gravity they can then overflow into the shallow irrigation trenches (and into the flood and drain growbeds inside the greenhouse) whenever the tilapia channels are filled with extra water from the rain or other sources like the central sump/water-container, a nearby river using a gravity-driven “ram-pump”, or piped gravity-pressurized water gathered high up Mount Kenya by the “Water Project”, so we’ll need to build low long walls along both sides of those tilapia channels between which the water can be raised above ground level, that can be cheaply and (self)sustainably made from rammed-earth bricks with the aforementioned brick-press. These low walls along the tilapia channels will also greatly reduce the amount of fish eaten by birds, because birds like to stand in the shallow water of a gradually sloped beach-head from where they can easily and quickly pick loads of fish from the water, and a steep wall alongside the water prevents this. To minimize water-loss through seepage into the ground these channels should be lined with plastic (dam-liner), but because this adds a substantial cost to establishing the project it would be possible to skip those costs in some clay-rich areas.
That it worksThe fact I haven’t successfully made my permacultural design of the Power Flower PHI-SCI work yet is surely the biggest obstacle in it’s worldwide application, but what I’ve actually done is harmonically integrate various synergetically collaborative organic farming techniques that others did successfully apply before me, so here you can see examples of tried and tested combinations that I joined together into a greater whole within my design (click&see):
Seven-layered Food Forest
Moringa & People
Moringa & Tilapia
Moringa & Chicken
Chicken & Tilapia
Tilapia & Vegetables
Chicken & Vegetables
Tilapia & Catfish
Tilapia & Duckweed
Chicken & Duckweed
Chicken & Compost
Tilapia & Sweetpotatoe Vines
Chicken & Sweetpotatoe Vines
Maize & Beans & Squash
To which I added these singular successfully tried and tested elements:
Although applying my design demands a slightly higher initial investment in work and money than usual, it sustainably provides you and your family with ever more food and money than conventional agricultural systems ever could (see research here), because the land is not depleted by the ever increasing amounts of expensive synthetic NKP-fertilizers needed, that initially do boost plant-growth, but are missing the many essential micro-nutrients that can only abound in the micro-organism rich environment of organically fertilized soils, which those plants, animals and the people eating them need to grow a healthy immune system, so they eventually in vain try to absorb them from their ever depleting dead soil, which quickly becomes compacted when it’s missing the organic matter present in compost and mulch that absorbs and retains humidity and air, while the land is poisoned by the ever increasing amounts of expensive synthetic pesticides needed to grow (genetically modified) non-indigenous ever weakening plants monoculturally, in which pests quickly take over for lack of the natural competition keeping them in check that a balanced biodiversity automatically offers, so these poisons then gradually accumulate in your soil and body over the years and/or in the groundwater, rivers and (y)our environment in general, while the slightly higher initial investment needed for this project eventually not only continually upgrades your and your family’s land, harvests and health, but also your financial situation, while additionally the synergetic collaboration within this harmonically integrated polyculture of humans, plants and animals not only saves us lots of money but also lots of work, and to boost earning back the initial financial investment this small eco-village can also harbor an eco-restaurant and a loge for eco-tourists, as many of my over 1000 international friends on facebook who have supported me and the manifestation of this project for many years in many ways have expressed their desire to come for a visit once it’s finally established, where I will then live in one of the five houses to make sure this pilot-project runs smoothly, after which I will then move on to the next location as I am sure many assignments will follow when it’s sustainably abundant and varied fruits become too evident to ignore, but to cut to the chase it will cost almost Ksh 500 000 (=5000 Euro/Dollar) in total for the necessary materials to make 1 acre flourish:
air-pump: 100 Euro
700 meters or aeration tube at 1.20 Euro a meter: 840 Euro
water-pump: 200 Euro
Tubes in various sizes: 200 Euro
Damliner for 750 meters of tilapia/irrigation channels of 1 meter deep and 1 meter wide, with 50 cm of overlap on each side, so 4 x 750 = 3000 square meters of damliner, that costs 0.50 Euro a square meter, makes: 1500 Euro
500 square meters of wood at 3 Euro a square meter for the bridges over the water and the framework for the roofs, the windows and doors, shaping the concrete etc.: 1500 Euro
Armored concrete (including renting the tools, iron framework etc.) for the containers of the growbeds inside the greenhouse and the foundation of the houses and bridges, costing: 1000 Euro
5 x 100 square meters of damliner to put between the thatch roof and the wooden frame:
4 batteries of 12 Watts and 100 Amperes that each cost 100 Euro makes: 400 Euro
Total 4990 Euro
But this doesn’t include the 4 solar panels of 125 Watts that cost 500 Euro each to securely power the air-pump and water-pump (necessary because the grid is very unreliable and this 1ife support system needs to depend on it 24/7), the 4 charge regulators at 30 Euro each, and the 12 to 220 Volts converter costing 80 Euro that I will contribute, together costing 2200 Euro
And I will also bring the 160 meters of tube to weave the frame of the greenhouse, costing: 200 Euro
And also the cover material for the greenhouse, which I have already cut and sewn into the right shape, costing: 300 Euro
And lots of tools, skills and all of my time and energy to make this project succeed, costing: faith :)
So that saves my partner(s) in the first pilot-project more than 2700 Euro of initial investment, for which we can make an arrangement when I move on to the next location for this project, after the pilot-project has clearly proven its value.
I hope I have made the value of the pilot-project clear enough in this presentation to convince pioneering investors, but because I felt my sketches looked too sketchy, unclear and unprofessional I made a request to all my friends on facebook, asking if anyone could help me make a digital 3D-presentation of my project because I lack the tools and skills for that myself, to which my dear Dutch friend Simon Alkemade responded, who is now working on a beautiful virtual 3D-tour of my project, which I will add here as soon as it’s completed.
Please share this presentation far and wide to help me offer a sustainable future for all humanity.